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Phillips tables $641-b budget

The primary increase is approximately 18 per cent, with expenditure increasing by approximately $102 billion over the $539 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31.

The estimates comprise $432.6 billion in recurrent (housekeeping) expenditure and $209 billion in combined Capital A and B expenditures, which cover estimates for projects financed solely by the Government, and projects financed primarily by external sources, respectively.

Audley Shaw, Opposition spokesman on finance and planning, pointed out in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last night that, as is customary, the finance and planning ministry has gobbled up the bulk of the resources – over $200 billion – primarily to pay down the country’s debt.

According to Shaw, the budget would be used mainly to reduce the debt, while there was some funding available for compensation for public sector workers and outstanding Government arrears.

“There is nothing in this budget that you could call a growth budget. It is definitely not the growth budget that the country was looking for,” Shaw insisted.

But Dr Phillips told a press conference at his ministry following the tabling of the estimates that the focus was to reduce the extent of the public debt as measured by the debt-to-GDP ratio.

“So that Jamaica can be put on a path of sustained growth with equity,” he explained.

The ministry has also included $21.3 billion to cover compensation issues with its employees, as well as delayed payments of statutory deductions by ministries, departments and agencies and the Jamaica Urban Transit Company.

Just over $11 billion has been allocated to meet expected improvements in compensation to its workers, including back pay and the final tranche of the one-off salary payment agreed on in 2013.

There were concerns yesterday as to whether the allocation can cover the demands of the trade unions, and whether the minister will have to table a supplementary expenditure budget.

Meanwhile, just over $10 billion will be used to pay outstanding statutory deductions and arrears as well as central government expenditure arrears, general consumption tax (GCT) for government purchases, and other contingency provisions.

The minister also tabled the Revenue Estimates, showing an estimated total of $443 billion in revenues – an increase of some $153 billion over last year – from various tax and non-tax revenue sources, including GCT of $113.3 billion and income tax of $11.5 billion. Customs is expected to contribute $25 billion.

There is also scope for $128 billion in loans and $4.7 billion in transfers from the Capital Development Fund, which is financed by the bauxite levy.

 

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